The murder trial of Paralympian gold medalist Oscar Pistorius resumed with the cross-examination of the state’s first witness who recalled the scream of a woman and gunshots in the early hours of the morning his girlfriend was killed.
Double-amputee Pistorius, 27, pleaded not guilty yesterday in the High Court in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, to purposefully shooting model Reeva Steenkamp at his home in the city on Valentine’s Day last year. His lawyer Barry Roux argued that it was a case of accidental death.
Proceedings were briefly adjourned when prosecutor Gerrie Nel told the court that the image of the witness was being shown on TV, saying it violated a condition of a court order that some witnesses could choose not to be filmed giving evidence. The presiding judge, Thokozile Matilda Masipa, ruled that no photographs may be shown of the witness.
Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius has admitted to shooting Steenkamp three times while she was in his bathroom, believing she was an intruder. He also denied guilt for three separate firearms charges. Masipa will rule on the case as South Africa doesn’t have a jury system.
“She was very scared of something before the shots rang out,” Michelle Burger, a neighbor of Pistorius in Pretoria, said in evidence today. “You only shout like that when your life is threatened.”
Roux questioned her account of events, including the number of shots heard and the timing of the scream, for a second day.
Members of both families sat on front benches in the wood-paneled courtroom. Pistorius, who has been free on 1 million rand ($93,000) bail since February 2013, wore a dark suit and sat on the accused bench behind his legal team writing notes.
Burger is the first of more than 100 witnesses who may be called by the prosecution in a trial that will be broadcast live on radio and TV. Apart from the murder charge, Pistorius faces two counts of illegally firing a gun in public and one of illegally possessing ammunition.
The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. (NKE) and Luxottica Group SpA’s (LUX) Oakley. He was the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics Games in London in 2012.
To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Spillane in Johannesburg at email@example.com